It’s mayor vs. firefighters in long-running battle

PROVIDENCE, R.I. ( — In response to planned pickets by local fire fighters and other union/community activists, Providence Mayor David Cicilline has issued a sweeping order aimed at containing protests.

As reported on my blog and on The Providence Journal website,, the Cicilline administration is demanding that protestors register with the city prior to planned pickets at the annual US Conference of Mayors event in Providence this weekend. Additionally, union picketers have been directed to comply with a newly released “Guidelines for Public Viewing,” which among other things, is requiring:

“That individual protestors and/or protest groups give notice in writing of the maximum number of persons participating, and the names and addresses of the organizers of any such march, assembly, meeting or gathering, its route, and its time of inception and duration at least 24 hours before such inception.”

The guidelines also creates so called “Free Speech Zones” telling protestors

“That you must stay within designated area;”

and also tells them

“That bags and backpacks are subject to search;”

The guidelines were issued on Tuesday in conjunction with a “Protestor Registration Form” the city is asking potential picketers to fill out. The new rules were instituted Tuesday according to Providence Emergency Management Director Peter Gaynor. The move comes only days after Vice President Joe Biden and other members of President Obama’s cabinet said they would not come to the conference out of respect for the Fire Fighters picket line.

Local 799 of the International Association of Fire Fighters has been without a contract for seven years. In 2002, when Cicilline, a Democrat, was running for office, he promised to settle the contract with the Fire Fighters within 30 days of taking office. It didn’t happen. Since then, high profile Providence events, including a fundraiser for 2004 VP nominee John Edwards and a 2008 fundraising appearance by then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had to be canceled by threatened pickets. The threatened Clinton pickets forced Cicilline to resign from the Clinton for President campaign in Rhode Island.

In addition to the Fire Fighters, members from Right to the City coalition are planning protest marches and pickets at various events surrounding the conference. In fortuitous timing, members from SEIU 1199NE are also planning to picket one of the hotels where many of the mayors were planning on staying because of an unrelated dispute with a local Head Start agency. Rhode Island Children’s Friend and Services is holding a Black Tie Gala at the famous Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Providence (where former mayor and convicted felon Buddy Cianci once lived in a penthouse suite) on the same day that workers for the Providence-based Head Start program Children’s Friend is purchasing are losing their jobs, told only that they have the right to re-apply.

No matter what, it is very clear that Providence, Rhode Island, is going to be a battleground this weekend.

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